Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Baby Bison and Frozen Waters

May Day is here and if I was still living in my little roundhouse in Flat Rock, North Carolina I would be watching the dogwoods and daffodils bloom in my yard. A pair of America Robins would insist on nesting above the light on my back porch and if lucky, the Mallards would return to nest in our Koi pond. But May Day in the interior of Yellowstone is dramatically different than that of Western North Carolina.

The snow in Grant Village still covers the landscape with average depths of 4.5 feet and early morning temperatures still hovering at around 18'F. I am told by those who have lived in Yellowstone for many years that this winter has been amongst the harshest that they have witnessed in a long time. Although I know Mother Nature is greater than I, I still sometimes think that this "record" winter is partially my fault. I have a long history of irregular weather following me. Throughout my short thirty two years of existence I've experienced the 1997 ice storm of Montreal, severe droughts and extreme high temperatures in the South in 2002, 4 major hurricanes in Florida, a 5.5 magnitude Earthquake in Hawaii, and now this year's record snowfalls and persistent winter in Yellowstone. The weather Gods constantly challenge me. However in light of the irregular weather patterns across the USA this Spring- from tornadoes and floods, I should consider myself fortunate.

But my woeful story of winter weather in Yellowstone is very much exclusive to the interior. This vast park which covers 2.2 million acres of land is extremely diverse in terms of flora & fauna, landscape and weather patterns. That is why this weekend, with little hesitation, Shane and I decided to head to a sunny, less snowy part of the park.

On our way towards Hayden Valley I was surprised to see that winter was still taking it's toll on the wildlife. A lone female Bison sat on the road about 6 miles north of Grant Village. With ribs and pelvis jutting out it was painful to look at how famished she was. Surrounding her were 5 foot walls of snow- no accessible food in sight for another 10 miles. Another 14 miles down the road lie the remains of a Bison Carcass in the snow. I can only imagine that in it's last few days of life it's ribs and pelvis were also jutting out with the tell-tale signs of food deprivation.  A Coyote, an Eagle and some Ravens enjoyed the feast while Hayden Valley still remains a winter wonderland with areas of 20 foot snow walls along the road.

But soon we descended into Mammoth Hot Springs where we watched a Maintenance Ranger grooming the grass and cleaning the roads. No snow in sight except in the high country. Heading towards Lamar Valley there were sporadic patches of snow but it was obvious that Spring had Sprung in this part of the Park.
Newly born baby Bison all covered in orange fur clumsily galloped next to their mothers while new sprouts of vegetation were beginning to poke up from the cold ground. Blending in with the vegetation a wolf trotted along the river's edge off in the distance; And the chirping of Mountain bluebirds and America robins filled the air with the reassurance that Spring had arrived in the Lamar Valley. 

But even though Lamar Valley is indeed part of Yellowstone National Park, it is still a 2.5 hour drive away from Grant Village, which clearly means that the diversity within the Park is extreme. So while Spring has sprung in Lamar, the waters of Lake Yellowstone remain an impenetrable frozen ice cap. As we drove back to Grant that evening we watched our truck's thermometer steadily decline from 54'F to 34'F. The next morning I awoke to find the thermometer reading a balmy high of 12'F. And so I ask all of you, if you are enjoying a warm sunny day please blow some of that warmth to the frozen Interior of Yellowstone!     


  1. I could send you some warm air, but it was 38 this morning here in Kennesaw Georgia. Not exactly a Spring like day. Think there was a hard freeze warning for NC last night. I'm like you, I think I caused it. Planted my tomato plants in the garden last Friday. They had been in little cups up near the house so I could cover them, but you know how that goes. Those Yellowstone temps must be hard to take, especially in May, for a Southern Belle. Love your posts!!

  2. Yikes! 38'F in GA! I hope your tomatoes make it. Shane and I are missing our garden this spring. We can't plant any outside cause of the bears. But we are starting an Herb garden in the house. Sun is shining this morning and it's supposed to get up into the 50's. When did 50 become shorts weather? haha!

  3. Supposed to be in the 80's tomorrow...crazy Georgia weather. 50's sound like you are having a regular heat wave after your teen temps. Perfect weather for growing herbs inside. What you growing? Have fun with it!